Ben Roberts-Smith kicked an unarmed and handcuffed Afghan villager named Ali Jan off a small cliff. A report by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said that a number of Ali Jan’s teeth were knocked out when he hit a rock. He then dragged him to a nearby tree and shot him
Australian judge Anthony Besanko, who dismissed the defamation claim brought forth by war veteran Ben Roberts-Smith, released the full judgement on Monday revealing disturbing acts of violence committed by the decorated Australian soldier during his deployments in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2012.
The Australian court found out that Roberts-Smith committed a criminal offence by sending threatening letters to a former colleague who along with him was part of the elite Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) and that it was substantially true that he was involved or complicit in four unlawful killings in Afghanistan.
The war veteran sued The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and three journalists, accusing them of defamation but the court dismissed the case. They published articles detailing his alleged war crimes as well as alleged acts of domestic violence.
Here are the key takeaways from the case:
Ben Roberts-Smith committed war crimes: The decorated war-veteran was deployed in Afghanistan six times. The first case is from 2009 where Roberts-Smith stands accused of killing a man with a prosthetic leg and asking his subordinate to shoot another. Both men were imprisoned following a raid on a compound dubbed Whiskey 108. He also kept the prosthetic leg as a “novelty beer drinking vessel”, following the Australian tradition of drinking alcohol from one’s shoe and even did so at their on-base bar the Fat Ladies’ Arms.
Ben Roberts-Smith killed at least three civilians: Along with the two other murders, Ben Roberts-Smith kicked an unarmed and handcuffed Afghan villager named Ali Jan off a small cliff. A report by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) said that a number of Ali Jan’s teeth were knocked out when he hit a rock. He then dragged him to a nearby tree and shot him. These two incidents were the most prominent allegations against Australia’s most-decorated soldier. There are also multiple allegations of him assaulting unarmed citizens.
Buried USB Sticks in the Garden: Ben Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife Emma Roberts told the court that she found a pink lunchbox before they separated in their garden underneath a rock and hose reel found a pink lunchbox with several USB sticks. He denied before court that he hid any evidence. Emma Roberts told the court that before returning the lunchbox to its place she copied hundreds of photographs onto her computer.
Judge Found Roberts-Smith to be Unreliable: The 736 pages of the judgement reveal that Roberts-Smith was an ‘unreliable’ witness and his letters to other SAS colleagues threatening them could amount to a criminal offence for perverting the course of justice. Justice Besanko also highlighted that Roberts-Smith had motives to lie, including financial motive to support his claim for damages and to restore his reputation.
What happens now: The most-decorated soldier was a famous public figure in Australia and was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his operations as a patrol scout and sniper in Afghanistan in 2006. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for Australian soldiers, in 2011, for his actions during a helicopter assault in Kandahar, where he killed three terrorists. He was also awarded the Commendation for Distinguished Service as part of the 2014 Australia Day Honours and was named the 2013 Father of the Year by the Australian Father’s Day Council. He is yet to be charged with any of the alleged war crimes in a criminal court and there are demands in Australia that he be stripped off his Victoria Cross, which if done would be the first time a veteran would be stripped of the honour